Rogue planets travel through outer space without orbiting a star, and scientists have now discovered two more of these free-floating worlds.
For centuries, the existence of rogue planets was hypothetical. Because they are not near a star that illuminates them, they are extremely hard to spot. Then a technique called gravitational microlenses was used.
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Scientists use gravitational microlenses to find planets, finding that a rogue planet intercepts the light of a star from our point of view. The planet suddenly acts as a lens to the light of the star and bends it as it would be seen from Earth. The bigger the planet, the bigger the interruption.
It is not the most efficient system. Some astronomers (like Neil DeGrasse Tyson) estimate that there are billions of rogue planets in the Milky Way. While humanity has proven its worth in the search for star-related exoplanets, scientists have identified only a dozen rogues. That's why adding two more stacks is such a big deal.
The planets are officially called OGLE-201
Scientists hope the Transiting Exoplanet Survey satellite, launched on April 16, will give exoplanets and rogue planet hunters a new edge as they learn more about the mysterious bodies that apparently surround the solar system.